Dharamshala: Asserting their rights and freedom, the large expatriate Tibetan community, who have been forced to live outside their homeland since it was occupied by China in 1959, has set in the process to elect the 17th Tibetan Parliament.
As many as 79,697 Tibetan exiles have registered as voters for the election, the first round of polling for which started today. Out of the total voters, 55,683 are residing in India and the remaining 24,014 are registered from other parts of the globe
Polling stations have been set up in California, New York, Toronto, Belgium, and London where voting commenced on 2nd Jan, a day before the scheduled election date. The final election would be held on 11th April.
For electing the Tibetan parliament, there are over 150 candidates in the fray. The Tibetan Election Commission responsible for holding a free and fair election has set up 12 polling stations in and around Dharamshala.
A record number of candidates including a former woman minister are vying for the top political post of the Tibetan polity.
There are 8 candidates in the fray for the position of Sikyong – political leader. The contenders include the representative of the Dalai Lama in Delhi and former CTA home minister Kasur Dongchung Ngodup; former representative of Dalai Lama to North America Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, former speaker of the parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering, and incumbent deputy speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntosok.
Tibet Under Occupation but Tibetans-in-Exile Are Free: Dr Sangay
Mr Lobsang Sangay, the current Sikyong (President of the Tibetan government in exile) said, ” in spite of a global pandemic, Tibetans living in 40 countries will be taking part in the elections. “Even though we are in exile, but we are exercising a fundamental right whereby we are walking shoulder to shoulder with other democratic countries around the world and that’s a gift his holiness has bestowed on us,” he said.
“The younger generation of Tibetans is sending a clear message to Beijing that Tibet is under occupation and but Tibetans in-exile are free and given a chance and opportunity we choose democracy over the authoritarian system., said Sangay.
“The Tibetan democracy-in-exile reflects the true aspirations of our brothers and sisters inside Tibet,” said Sangay, who is also a Harvard scholar.
On completing his second term in office, the biggest achievement of Sangay has been the successful passage of USAs Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA), 2020, despite strong protests by China; a decision that strengthened the American policy on Tibet and reaffirmed the government’s support for the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.
There are around 1.3 lakh Tibetans living in exile in India and around the globe. The results of the first round of voting will be declared on February 8. The second and final round is expected to be held on April 11, and the new Tibetan government-in-exile will elect its head on May 14, 2021.
Arvind Sharma is an award winning bi-lingual journalist with more than 20 years of experience.
He has worked with Divya Himachal, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhasker, Vir Partap, Ajit and PTI.
In 2010, he was conferred the Himachal Kesri journalism award. He reports on the Tibetan Government in Exile, politics, sports, tourism and other topics. He lives in Dharamshala.